Tianjin, China – "When I accidentally smashed my mother's watch in high school, I was shocked to see the intricate components inside after opening the caseback. Could these tiny parts really provide accurate time?" recalls Li Jiaqi (李家琦), master watchmaker at Seagull, on his fascination with mechanical watches that started early. His curiosity was piqued, and he determined: "No matter my future career, I will learn watch repair."
At 18, a stroke of serendipity led Li to join Tianjin Watch Factory. "China's first watch was born from Seagull. It carries the memories of an era and the pride of our city Tianjin." Though a novice then, Li's passion for unraveling the mysteries within fueled his drive to learn on the job. He vividly remembers an exacting component while developing China's inaugural dual time zone watch. "Machining this piece the size of a sesame seed's quarter to a 0.02mm tolerance was extremely difficult - that's one-fourth the diameter of the finest human hair!" After tireless days and nights, Li and colleagues devised an innovative method to complete the daunting task in just one week.
After a 2004 stint studying CNC machining and component production in Switzerland, Li returned home inspired by the consummate skills and artistry of Swiss watchmakers. "Years of learning convinced me that excellent watches take not only technical expertise, but an unrelenting dedication to refinement and innovation." Fueled by diligence and perseverance, Li scaled towards ever more ambitious feats of horology. China's first dual time zone watch...first skeletonized tourbillon...first double-tourbillon openworked creation...each groundbreaking achievement colored another chapter of sweat and toil, gracing Seagull's ascent in the Chinese watch market.
"Loving your work with professional dedication is fundamental for an artisan's ethos and attitude," says Li. Today, work and life are integrated for him. "During an evening stroll, the Liberation Bridge sparked my creativity. Our team birthed a watch integrating Tianjin landmarks like the bridge and Tianjin Railway Station. A precise mechanism authentically opens and closes the bridge model on the dial every 2 hours for 6 minutes." This dynamism was an industry first for Seagull.
"Reform and opening-up provided the stage, and our hard work gave Seagull its wings to soar," Li reflects. Through 37 years of tireless effort, he transformed from an ordinary youth into a national model worker and master watchmaker. When asked about future goals, Li asserts: "We will propel our Tianjin Seagull into the global watchmaking hall of fame and adorn more 'World Famous' products with our 'Made in China' mark."
Note: This article Originally published on Tianjin Daily, Jan 10, 2019